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So you’re persevering with this little blog of mine are you? Good for you. Your procrastination truly knows no bounds does it? It’s really quite exceptional.
Today we’re going to talk about the next phase. Likely by now you’ve taken on board my previous ramblings on both introducing your dwindling circle of friends to board games, and which games are best suited to testing the waters. But how best to proceed from here? How best to wade into those waters?
Alright, we’ve already talked about how most people are receptive to the suggestion of a board game, though usually only if it’s something simple or something they already know well, such as the much lamented Monopoly. By way of grooming your friends into becoming a group of seasoned and salivating gamers, we suggested a number of simple games that could be taught and understood in a couple of minutes, such as Dixit, Pictomania, King Of Tokyo, Werewolves etc. Simple games that would really revolutionize the way your friends thought of board games, and seduce them with a level of social interaction they assumed only existed in the montages of broody teen dramas.
But now we need to move on. A true board gamer can’t exist on a diet of fillers and party games alone, we need variety and nourishment represented by all the major game groups. Here’s what we’re going to do…
First, we need to cut away the dead weight. Some people just aren’t down for a board game, no one knows why, probably the result of some traumatic childhood experience best left unexplored. If you find that some of your friends fall into this group, if they sat there stone faced and unmoved during every attempt to seduce them over… excommunicate them immediately. Some of you may be hesitant in doing this, don’t worry, people who don’t like board games don’t have feelings, just cut them out of your life!
Okay, okay. Some of them have feelings, and some of them are even worth keeping around. If this is the case, make peace with it; so you can’t enjoy Gary’s company with a game, it doesn’t matter, move on. What we don’t want to do is drag Gary on regardless of his protests and despondent posture. Eventually we’re going to be conducting our friends through 10 – 20 minute, even 30-40 minutes or more of rules explanations for games that go on for up to 6 hours plus; it’s going to be hard to keep moral up with Gary there, his top lip curled up in disgust, poking his Iphone as he interjects with his defeatist “I don’t understand” catch phrase every two minutes. Don’t get me wrong, we all love Gary, and it may cause some initial political friction leaving his name off the Facebook ‘event’ invite, but the alternative is worse.
So that’s the unpleasant bit over with. Gary’s out. No, it’s alright, you’ll see him down the pub on Tuesday, it’s fine.
So moving forward, it’s a question of pace. You’ve cultivated a selection of your friends that are receptive to the wonders that a composition of cardboard, plastic and wood in the middle of the table can bestow upon it’s participants, now we want to escalate that experience. The obvious risk here is that we move forward too fast; that we go from a quick constantly engaging party game like Dixit, to a long, drawn out, think tank of a game with a GMT complexity rating of (dear god no!) NINE!
What we want to do, is take the simple and engaging mechanics of those introductory ‘party’ games that had us laughing and shouting like so many unstable Justin Bieber fans, and put them in a bigger game. But not too big! We want to touch on some of the main themes and and genres of modern board games, however, just like when you invite your friends over for a good old fashioned sex party, you want them to enjoy their night from the sanctuary of their own comfort zone.
But before we get onto what games to play and why, there’s the small matter of
sex party board game night etiquette to discuss. See the lighter games we’ve suggested previously, can sustain a good amount of people boozing, playing on their phones and talking about their hair. However, moving forward, an increase in the complexity and depth of the games we’ll be playing will call for some decorum.
Here’s some of the more common sense points of board game etiquette to be getting on with.
Drink responsibly – Some games can be enjoyed while you’re all steamed off your nut, some will completely break down and suffer considerable water damage.
When you gather with friends for the night, you need to make a call as to whether getting hammered or playing a game will be the focus of the evenings entertainment. If it’s the latter, make sure the game is well on its way before you crack open the booze and for the love of Shane MacGowan, pace yourself!
Get too drunk and you’ll find you’ve regressed to having the deductive reasoning and critical thinking skills of an 8 year old child. Have you played a proper board game with an 8 year old? They just make things sticky then you have to send them to bed. Also they suck at board games!
Put your phone away – Nothing can ruin a game quite like an iphone. It starts off innocuous; the conversation calls for something to be googled or otherwise fact checked and out comes the iphone,
“I’ll just check”
Some body says… and they do, but it doesn’t end there, because when that little technological slab of information has your attention, it’s never going to let go! A quick fact check turns into five, then it turns into a…
“oooh i’ll just check that post I’ve been tagged in”
Then it turns into a…
“Phil look at this!”
Then everyone wants to see! It gets passed around, someone asks a question regarding whatever the hell it is the iphone is showing us now and all of a sudden fifteen minutes have passed before anyone has even thought about the game, no one can remember whose turn it is and any mental investment people had in the game has dwindled to an idol curiosity as to whether Bradley Cooper being voted sexiest man alive was in anyway responsible for the second dip into economic recession.
Deal with this problem from the outset, if this kind of thing happens often amongst your group, either have people put their phones in a bowl at the beginning of the evening or come up with some kind of trivial forfeit for the first person to ‘check’ their phone; a 10 electro fine in Power Grid for example… If that doesn’t work then perhaps look at other options?
You soil it, you buy it! - The unspoken rule. You know it, I know it; If one of us was responsible for spilling a drink all over someone else’s game, (and there was absolutely no other way of having someone else take the wrap for it) we’d immediately offer to buy it off them. That’s the law!
I’m not one of those chaps that cringes when people shuffle my cards or barks when moisture comes within a foot of my games. I’m of the opinion we should play with our games and not very carefully do our games; however the uninitiated will be blissfully ignorant of both the aforementioned law and the often considerable financial investment that a board game represents. Now, we don’t want to foster a totalitarian atmosphere for the evening and it’s probably not something you want to even bring up when you’re playing a cheaper game; but when the game your playing represents more than £50 of your carefully frivoled cash, it could be worth politely mentioning to newer people that this law is in effect. It doesn’t have to be confrontational in the slightest, just address the table one and all…
“I have no problem with drinks on the table, do as you will, but you should know this game will cost £xx.xx should it become waterlogged.”
It may seem pedantic on the face of things, but if everyone is clear about what to do in a worst case scenario it can prevent a good amount of bad feelings and make everyone generally more relaxed about playing the game.
Keep people comfortable – If people aren’t comfortable then they’re distracted, they’re minds will start wondering off on lengthy contemplations of exactly how long they’ll be subjected to this cruelty and what they must have done to offend you. Minimise these petty distractions by making sure people are sat with easy access to the table and in a room of tolerable temperature. Be sure to keep people fed and watered too. I find asking people to bring snacks results in too many inappropriate culinary contributions and staining of components, so I opt to provide a steady supply of these…
They provide the three major gaming food groups; rice, corn and soy, all in one crispy bacon flavoured fry that offers up goodness that even the vegetarians at the table can enjoy!
That’s not all though; we humans posses an emotional complexity that can not be sated by bacon fries alone. Neutral background music at an unobtrusive volume will go a great way to alleviating the social awkwardness of having to pretend not to hear the digestive noises of your companions guts for hours on end.
If we can meet these few basic needs that our friends are likely to have, we’re going to have a much more successful evening of board gaming.
If you’re bringing the game, learn the rules! - Finally, this one is probably on you! You can only do so much to diminish the effects of drunkards spilling beer on your board while playing on their phones and making everyone uncomfortable with their flatulence, however the perpetuation of this last point falls squarely on the shoulders of the person running the game - which is you isn’t it? Lets face it.
Nothing can derail an evening of gaming quite as quickly and efficiently as trying to make sense of a game as you go, especially in the early stages of trying to groom companions to your cause. You can perhaps be forgiven for optimistically reading out of the rule book to a table of veteran gamers once in a while, but to do so with fresh faced newbies is a good way of never seeing them again.
Learn the rules! Read the rules, play a few rounds of a solo game in an attempt to discover ambiguities and likely questions, read the rules again, then for good measure rehearse the teaching of the game to a cushion. You can never put too much effort into insuring this part of the game night goes smoothly because everything will depend on it.
There we go… That wasn’t too bad was it?
Now I know I haven’t touched on a lot of other points of board game etiquette; such as ‘what to do if someone brings a girl to a board game night’, or ‘the rage quit and when it’s okay too flip the table’. What we’ve outlined today however, are the core principles and more than enough to be getting on with as we move into part 2 and explore which games are best suited to holding our hand through those all important next steps.